MPP Fullerton's Speech at Ottawa City Hall

Published on April 24, 2019

Dr. Merrilee Fullerton, MPP Kanata-Carleton, was guest speaker at the Mayor's Breakfast Series today. Her address was entitled: Ontario Government's Fiscal Policies and the Residents of Ottawa

Thank you for the introduction. Thank you to Mayor Jim Watson and the Ottawa Board of Trade for having me as guest at this Mayor’s Breakfast Series. It is good to see the Mayor this morning – I appreciate his hospitality. I must say it is always a pleasure to cross paths with Jim at the many community events we find ourselves in Kanata and West Carleton.

I note some of my colleagues here today. MPPs Goldie Ghamari and Jeremy Roberts. Thank you for being here.  

Likewise it is good to see those Ottawa City Councillors who I work directly with – my good friend Allan Hubley, Councillor for Kanata South; Jenna Sudds representing Kanata North; and Eli El-Chantiry representing West Carleton.  

It is wonderful to be speaking here at City Hall this morning. Thank you to all who have come out to start your day in this way.

 

Budget Overview

I am here this morning to share some of the details in the provincial budget, delivered by my colleague, Finance Minister Vic Fedeli, on April 11, just a few weeks ago.

This was the first budget of our government’s mandate. There has been a great range of commentary on the budget and its contents. Many people have expressed surprise. There were those who thought our first budget would “slash and burn” and the government would announce major cuts to programs and services. On the other hand, many financial analysts are saying we didn’t cut enough. I think Ottawa Citizen columnist Randall Denley summed it up accurately when he wrote: “attacks from the right and left mean we are doing something right.”

Finance Minister Fedeli described this as a Goldilocks Budget – not too hot, nor too cold. It’s just right…It is a comprehensive and sustainable plan that puts the Province on a path to balance.

It is a plan for the people – it is thoughtful and measured.

With this plan, the Province is ensuring value for taxpayers’ money and protecting what matters the most– our vital services such as our public health care and education systems.  

With the mandate handed to us just 10 short months ago, Ontarians expect us to get the province back on track. This won’t happen overnight. It will require a longer term vision and the discipline to see a plan through. We all recognize the art of good public policy is to ensure the changes will be done in a responsible manner. I can tell you that our Government is most concerned about preserving Ontarians’ standard of living and quality of life – for us today - and for future generations.

 

Fiscal Approach

Restoring trust and accountability in government and its finances is foundational to our decisions at Queen’s Park.

In providing the necessary programs and services Ontarians have come to know and expect, the greatest challenge we are confronted with is the fiscal straightjacket that is presently constraining our activities and limiting our choices.

Ontarians spend more than a billion dollars a month to service the debt – money that could have been better spent on our education, health care, and public services.

With my role and responsibilities on Treasury Board and as the Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities, I see first-hand the real picture of our debt and what it means. Sadly, it amounts to lost opportunities for Ontarians.

I can tell you our government has stopped the reckless spending of the previous government, which was spending about $40 million a day more than they were taking in in revenues. That unsustainable spending left Ontario with a $343 billion mountain of debt.

This level of debt is an unacceptable burden to leave our children and our grandchildren – and we need to act now or our futures will be at risk. As my colleague Peter Bethlenfalvy, the President of the Treasury Board, often relates when speaking on restoring fiscal sustainability, “we not only have a fiscal imperative, we have a moral imperative.”

To date, we have reduced the deficit we inherited from the previous government by $3.3 billion, going from a $15 billion deficit to $11.7 billion for the 2018-19 fiscal year.  Our government is also projecting a modest surplus by 2023-24, as we work to balance the budget in five years.

And with no new tax increases – not a single one.

Contrary to what some groups would have you believe, our government is taking a measured approach, and a responsible approach, to balancing Ontario’s Budget.

Balancing the budget is not something driven by ideology – it is the crucial first step to ensuring that our hospitals, our schools, and other critical public services have the necessary funding for generations to come. We aim to be both fiscally responsible and compassionate.

After all, it is good fiscal stewardship that allows government to provide for people in their time of need. And it is good fiscal policy that helps create opportunity and prosperity for us all. That is the prevalent mindset of my colleagues. It is the mindset that has produced the 2019 Ontario Budget.

 

Budget Features

No doubt by now you have read about the details of the budget.

The signature initiative of the budget is the proposed Childcare Access and Relief from Expenses (CARE) tax credit. CARE helps low- and middle-income families with up to 75% of their eligible child care costs per year, including those for daycares, home-based care, and camps. 

Another key item in the budget is dental care for low-income seniors. At least two-thirds of low-income seniors do not have access to dental care – and many end up in our emergency rooms as a result. The government is investing $90 million starting at the end of summer 2019 to establish this new program to help Ontario’s low-income seniors.

As a medical professional, I am pleased that our government is working to strengthen and protect our public health care system. We are making priority capital investments to end hallway health care by providing $17 billion over the next decade to modernize and increase capacity at our hospitals. Furthermore, 15,000 new long-term care beds will come online in the next five years and we are working to upgrade an additional 15,000 long-term care beds to modern design standards. With planned structural changes to our heath delivery system, we will be pulling dollars out of the back office and directing them right to the frontline – to doctors, nurses and personal support workers – and putting patients at the centre of our health care system.  All of this is absolutely essential to make our health care system sustainable and more efficient.

 

Budget Impact On Ottawa

I would like to talk for a minute about what the 2019 Ontario Budget has for Ottawa residents.

As I said earlier, but it bears repeating, there are no new tax increases. Can you recall the last time a government delivered a budget with no new taxes? (I’ll give you a minute to think about this.)

The most significant item in the budget for this City is the official commitment of $1.21 billion for Phase 2 of the LRT. This money will go towards construction of 44 kilometers of new rail and 24 new LRT stations. The Mayor has described it as the largest infrastructure project in the City’s history. This is a major transportation imperative for the City, and I was pleased to be with Premier Ford in March to announce our government’s contribution to Phase 2.  

The 2019 Ontario Budget also included $2 million for the Children’s Treatment Centre at CHEO, which supports children with developmental disabilities and funding for the design of the new Civic Hospital campus.

Our provincial government has also provide $2 million to support Ottawa Police in their efforts to combat local gangs and gun violence in our community.

Our Budget sent a clear signal to the business community in the City of Ottawa and across the province. We are focused on providing a sense of certainty with the Ontario economy that our business community and international investors can trust. We recognize that governments don’t create jobs and economic growth, but we can provide the environment for business to create jobs, take risks and grow.

We will continue to foster certainty in our economy that will allow businesses to make the decisions to invest and grow instead of worrying about the next tax or next set of restrictive regulations. We aim to foster the climate in which all businesses can prosper.

 

Kanata-Carleton Business Community

On this point, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the business opportunities in my own back yard of Kanata. Earlier this year, I released Kanata-Carleton’s High Tech and Business Initiative which identifies four pillars of sustainability and growth to advance the interests of high tech and business in Kanata and West Carleton.

We have a remarkable business community in the west end of the City. The business activity in Kanata North contributes more than 23,000 jobs locally and another 10,000+ jobs in other areas of Ottawa and Eastern Ontario. One of my personal goals is to have our local companies and high tech industry better recognized not only as the pivotal economic driver in Ottawa and area, but the foremost high tech region in Ontario.

To the broader business community in the City, let me state as someone who was involved in a medical clinic for years, I understand the commitment it takes to succeed, and the pressures of running a business. We are striving to create a business climate that will make it easier for local businesses, and entrepreneurs, innovators, and freelance professionals to succeed whether they are operating in Kanata or in Kinburn – or any of the neighbourhoods in this City. 

 

Conclusion

The 2019 Ontario Budget is an important document as it frames the discussion about our Government’s approach to restoring fiscal sustainability in Ontario. Finance Minister Vic Fedeli and Treasury Board President Peter Bethlenfalvy have a clear sense of what needs to be done to restore confidence in our Province’s economy. My colleagues and I at Queen’s Park are committed to making the hard decisions necessary to correct the course our Ontario has been on previously. We are committed to getting Ontario back on track. To repeat, our actions are taken not from some ideological stance, but rather out of necessity from the realties and challenges we must address.    

So, we plan to move forward in a measured and responsible manner. As this budget demonstrated, residents in Ottawa can expect the Ontario Government will work to meet our needs. My colleagues and I look forward to continuing to work with the Mayor and local Councillors to ensure the priorities of this wonderful City of ours are advanced at Queen’s Park.

Indeed, there is much work to be done – and the 2019 Ontario Budget is but a first step. 

 

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